In a relatively short period, Google’s menu of productivity apps has become a staple in my electronic diet. Gmail keeps me on top of personal and professional correspondence. Drive helps me track my income and expenses. And Maps is a godsend for my geographically challenged brain.
Given the dominance of cloud-based apps on personal devices, users are starting to demand the same kind of access to productivity tools in the office, just as they may eventually demand the kinds tools offered via unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS). IT departments are no doubt already very familiar with software-as-a-service (SaaS) products, of course, but several speakers at Google’s recent Atmosphere event suggested they could become one of the dominant forms of traffic on the network for some use cases. Among the key drivers:
- Cost savings: Brandon Williams figures that by implementing Google Sites, the State of Colorado has avoided spending $2.4 million to develop its more than 400 internal Web sites. “The traditional model is to outsource,” says Williams, the state’s IT Director. “But we own the code and have a set of tools that are easy for non-technical staff to use.”
- Agile development: During the 2013 Colorado floods, the state built a Web site in 24 hours to provide critical information to first responders, residents and media during the emergency. “We gathered information from the state level and the federal level, and the site quickly became the go-to source for information.”
- Self-service: On the shop floor of its Milwaukee plant, about 1,000 employees at Briggs & Stratton, a global manufacturer of gasoline engines, use Google Drive to share manufacturing instructions, how-to videos, quality checklists and scheduling sequences for the shift. “The best part is we didn’t even know this had happened. We didn’t have to whiteboard it or go through approvals,” said Brent, Hoag, VP and CIO. “We made the tools available and the people saw the opportunity to innovate for themselves.”
- Collaboration: Scott’s Miracle-Gro has about 150 associates in nine offices across the U.S. who collaborate on sales plans for its massive retail customer base. One of its major “pain points” was around trade promotions, the TV, radio and print ad used to motivate consumer purchases. Before Google, these 150 associates had to routinely manage dozens and dozens of spreadsheets and lots of email to make this happen, said Hendrick. “To solve this, we use Google app engine to build a low-cost database in the cloud. Now everyone can access the plans concurrently, and they always have the latest information.”
Companies are clearly realizing value from SaaS products, and appreciating the freedom and seamlessness cloud-based tools offer. IT leaders should consider other types of traffic that lend themselves to a pay-as-you-go model. With more users connecting from various devices and various locations – and at an hour of the day – unified communications is a logical next step in this evolution. But running data, voice and video applications in the cloud demands a robust and reliable network that can differentiate and prioritize traffic. In many cases, the existing infrastructure isn’t up for the job. Network administrators need to evaluate their communications framework if they want to take advantage of the benefits of moving UC to the cloud.